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Useful Uganda travel tips to make your trip easier

by Pilar Dujan | August 10, 2023
Our Uganda travel tips will help you see the giraffes

Uganda, the Pearl of Africa according to Winston Churchill, is a top tourist destination for nature lovers. You can expect to see many different forms of wildlife on safari or trekkings through the jungle if you travel to Uganda. It’s a unique destination with so much to offer, a place unlike any other.

So, complete your Uganda e visa application, go through all the important traveling to Uganda tips and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime trip! 

Do I need any vaccines to travel to Uganda?

All ages and nationalities must present a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate to enter Uganda. Though not compulsory, it is also recommended to be vaccinated against Tetanus-Diphtheria/Tetanus-Pertussis, Triple Virus (Measles, Rubella and Mumps) and Hepatitis A.

Is a SIM card necessary for Uganda?

Kampala is the capital of Uganda. There you will be able to access WiFi networks in hotels and restaurants/cafes. However, the quality is not good and outside of the city it’s pretty much unavailable. 

Some Uganda tips that could help you include buying a prepaid local SIM card to avoid depending on the WiFi connection. The most recommended company is Airtel Uganda. There are two types of plans available for tourists: for one week and for one month, each with two different data options. Their prices range from approximately $4 to $14. 

You will need to bring your passport and have a photo taken, so it’s best to make the purchase at an official store (ideally not at the airport).

Uganda tips for exploring the country

What is the currency of Uganda?

The currency of Uganda is the Ugandan Shilling (UGX/USh), which is one of the most devalued currencies in the world. The banknotes are 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 50,000. Coins are 50, 100, 200 and 500.

The institutions of Uganda primarily operate with cash and bank cards are not as frequently used or accepted. Where cards are accepted, only Visa is allowed. It is not advisable to pay with a credit card except in hotels or tourist and controlled establishments.

USX is not listed on international exchanges and as such, the currency must be exchanged on arrival.

It is recommended that you bring US dollars to exchange, although they cannot accept any US Dollars from before the year 2001. You can also change from the Euro, although this is less sought after and may give a worse exchange rate.

Traveling to Uganda tips: the cost of the activities 

Most people travel to enjoy nature and see the amazing wildlife available throughout the country, but it’s necessary to be aware of some Uganda travel tips about the cost of these activities: first and foremost, know that they are expensive.

For example, if you plan to do an Uganda gorilla trekking, you should know that you have to get a permit first. That permit can cost $600 or more! Most park entrances cost $40, but some special activities can go for hundreds of dollars.

Some traveling to Uganda tips are that the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has established fixed prices to access the different national parks of the country, so everybody should visit their website for more detailed information. You can even download a PDF file with all the costs, rules for gorillas and chimpanzees trekkings and more!

Permits for gorilla trekking in Uganda tips

As previously stated, you need a permit to go on gorilla trekkings in Uganda. Luckily, they’re easy to find: you can apply online through the website of the UWA

However, there are two difficulties attached to getting a permit. First of all, the price: it costs hundreds of dollars so it’s a good idea to start saving with a lot of anticipation. 

The second difficulty is the availability. These trekkings can only be made in small groups so as to not scare off the animals (although they’re accustomed to humans). But since there’s only room for 8 people in a party, permits are extremely hard to get. You should apply at least half a year before traveling. There might be more availability during the low season.

Of course, this means that the weather could not be ideal the chosen day or some other issue could arise. Sadly, this is a risk every traveler has to take. However, if you get sick and bring a doctor’s note, you get a refund for 50% of the permit (human diseases are very harmful to gorillas so it’s forbidden to go trekking with a cold or being sick). You will also get a 50% refund if you can’t see any gorillas.

Uganda tips to see mountain gorillas

Tipping in Uganda

In Uganda tips are customary, and necessary (most people in the service industry have very low wages). Tipping is also expected if you go on safari with a guide, as well as extra tips for the other members of the team. 

A person traveling to Uganda tips usually in their own currency, but it’s best to tip workers in Ugandan shillings to spare them the trouble of having to exchange it. 

Haggling in Uganda tips

Haggling will not be useful in the big cities of Uganda. However, small shops mostly don’t have fixed prices so you can haggle a little bit there.

How to travel around Uganda

Getting around Uganda is not difficult. Travelling is simplest in a guided taxi which can offer hourly rates of about 10,000 shillings across the city or from one city to another.

Inner-city travel is mostly done by non-motored bicycles which can be rented or bought outright in fair repair. Motorcycles and motor scooters are also common, but cars can be seen driving around as well.  

Car rentals can make the most sense for longer trips as it allows someone to see more of the country on their own terms. However, traveling outside of cities in regular cars is not advised as the infrastructure for roads in rural Uganda is not up to modern standards.

There are areas where roads may be damaged with no plans for repair or where roads may degrade into dirt or gravel, and even more, some roadways may just be paths through overgrown jungle. 

The best thing to rent for travel in Uganda is a four-wheeler. All-terrain vehicles are usually smaller with less safety features but are quick and capable over rough terrain with plenty of carrying capacity. This also makes nature sightseeing easier.

bird in Uganda

When is the best time to travel to Uganda?

The Uganda time is mild all year round. The temperature does not fluctuate much, ranging on average between 20 and 30 degrees.

If you intend to go on excursions to see the wildlife, you should choose the driest months. It is not only more easily accessible to go to the national parks during the drier months, but the lack of vegetation makes it easier to view the animals and find them congregating at watering holes. The dry season is twice a year, from December to February and from June to September, which is usually much hotter. The heat brings out animals to natural water sources where they can easily be seen.

Uganda is a tropical country with a great degree of wetland and jungle which take in an incredible amount of rain. You will want to avoid the rainy seasons. It’s not just easier to move around when the ground isn’t all mud, but the animals will likely avoid it for the same reasons, making safaris or nature sightings harder to do.

Packing for Uganda tips

Uganda is a conservative country, so some Uganda travel tips for women tourists are to avoid short skirts and shorts and to pack midi or long skirts if they plan to visit local tribes: it’s badly seen to wear pants or shorts in this situation. 

Some general packing for Uganda tips include bringing comfortable hiking shoes or boots, pants and long-sleeved shirts, extremely helpful to protect oneself against the sun, scratches and mosquitos. The last part is especially important because there’s a risk of malaria in Uganda, so pack anti-malaria tablets

The treks in Uganda can be difficult because of possible rainfall and rugged terrain. Gaiters will help you keep the dirt away from your feet, so try to get as much coverage as possible. 

Other useful things to bring to Uganda are:

  • Sun, sunglasses and a hat
  • Scarf 
  • Rain jacket
  • Strong insect repellent
  • Flashlight
  • Extra memory cards and batteries for your camera
  • Garden gloves or regular gloves (some bring them on gorilla trekkings to grab plants and trees for support).
  • Binoculars
  • Portable chargers for your phone

Sun sets over a city in Uganda

Is it safe to travel to Uganda?

Is Uganda safe? Yes, especially for tourists. This country has seen a steady improvement in security, and today it is relatively stable after Yower Museveni came to power in 1986 following the expulsion of Milton Obote and General Tito Okello. However, small crime is “common”, including pickpocketing, marketplace scams and upcharges, fraud and other inner-city related issues.

Although it's not compulsory, useful Uganda travel tips include the purchase of travel insurance

Avoid the areas near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The northern border with South Sudan is open but restricted, meaning armed forces from the neighboring country can intrude and commence armed conflict.

If you are traveling without a guide, then it is recommended to always advise the local national park authorities of your route if you enter.

Traveling to Uganda tips

  • Uganda is a country where homosexuality is not allowed and is illegal. You must be careful not to show any affection in public to avoid major problems.
  • No photographs should be taken of official, military or diplomatic sites, including the "Owen Falls Dam" at the source of the Nile near Jinja.
  • Smoking is not permitted in public spaces. In 2004, Uganda banned smoking in these spaces, and though it seems that the law is not strictly enforced, it is better not to take risks.
  • It is advisable not to wear visible jewelry or objects of high value that might attract the gaze of onlookers.
  • When traveling by road, it is highly recommended to keep the car latches closed and the windows up. Never leave valuables in the car in plain sight, regardless of how small they may seem to you.
  • Water should be purchased in sealed containers or plastic bottles only to reduce the risk of ingesting unsafe water. It is not advisable to drink ice unless you are sure it is drinkable. 
  • Never swim in Lake Victoria due to the risk of bilharzia which can cause a serious parasitic disease.
  • The voltage in Uganda is 240 Volts and a frequency of 50 Hz. The type of plug they use is Type G, so it is advisable to take power adapters of this style. Know that power outages are common and they could damage your electronic devices.
  • The Phone Prefix for Uganda is +256.
  • Interacting with animals without a guide is prohibited, or extremely discouraged.